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Golden Helmet Memories

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We'll be running an in-depth feature on the Golden Helmet match race championship in a forthcoming issue of Backtrack, so we just wondered if any of you have any particular memories - good or bad - of the GH during the era in question (1970-90).

 

We'll be covering the Silver Helmet in another issue, so please keep this thread Gold.

 

Until 1974, when the monthly nominated challenge was reintroduced, the GH would be contested by the holder and the opposing team's top scorer after Heat 13 of the official league or KO Cup match. While this often made it difficult to keep tabs on who held the title at any given time (in the pre-internet days when we relied on the morning papers and radio for the ost immediate speedway results), at least it gave a number of riders an unexpected crack at winning it.

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my most vivid memory of the golden helmet is also my saddest. in 1976 one of my speedway heroes tommy jansson died when he was holder of the title. cyril maidment gave me one of the race jackets used in the jansson match races from that season. it still remains in my collection. :sad:

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I preferred the monthly match race event as it felt more meaningful than the post-match format. Remember Kenny Carter holding it for a fair while in the early 80s, possibly even beating Bruce Penhall at Cradley? Although the latter format definitely had it moments with some surprising holders. I recall Carl Blackbird taking it off Hans Nielsen at Oxford.

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My most memorable memory is like Cityrebels. Seeing Tommmy Jansson riding round Plough Lane, after beating Dave Jessup 2-1 waving to the crowd whilst wearing the Golden Helmet. Tragic that he never got to defend his title.

 

I don't know if you know, but Tommy used Wimbledon junior Ian Williams bike, in the second and third legs, of this match race, after his own bike broke down during the first race.

 

One thing I have read over the years. Was the only two riders to win the Golden Helmet with the name Tommy (Jannson & Fardon) both lost their lives while being the current holders.

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I recall Carl Blackbird taking it off Hans Nielsen at Oxford.

 

Blimey, that was a shock - Hans' first defence at the start of 1986. What happened? Did Hans' bike fail (no disrespect meant to Carl, who was about to enjoy his best ever season)?

Edited by tmc

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I don't know if you know, but Tommy used Wimbledon junior Ian Williams bike, in the second and third legs, of this match race, after his own bike broke down during the first race.

 

I didn't know that and a very good call. Incredible, really, that Tommy should put such faith in a junior's bike. Wonder if his more senior Wimbledon team-mates offered to lend theirs?

Edited by tmc

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I preferred the monthly match race event as it felt more meaningful than the post-match format. Remember Kenny Carter holding it for a fair while in the early 80s, possibly even beating Bruce Penhall at Cradley? Although the latter format definitely had it moments with some surprising holders. I recall Carl Blackbird taking it off Hans Nielsen at Oxford.

 

Funny you should mention Kenny and the Helmet. In his new book, Alan Carter recalls an anecdote that summed up his brother's cocky arrogance/confidence, call it what you will.

 

Alan writes:

 

I’ll tell you how confident and cocky Kenny was in his prime. The Golden Helmet was a big thing in speedway back then, a prestigious competition with a lot of history and all the top riders wanted to win it. Each month the holder would defend the famous Golden Helmet against a nominated challenger, or the top rider in the opposing team depending on what era you’re talking about. Whoever won the race, or best-of-three series, went home with the Golden Helmet. Kenny took a lot of pride in being the holder and it took a lot to get it off him.

 

Anyway, I can’t remember who he was riding against this particular night at The Shay but what I do recall is me asking him: “Where’s the helmet?”

 

He just winked at me and said: “I didn’t bring it . . . what’s the point? I’m not going to lose.”

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My highlight was in 1971 when Richard May scored a maximum against Oxford at Tilehurst-and won a coin toss over Anders Michanek to meet the holder Ken Mckinlay whom he beat from the back(12th July).3 days later he had to defend in at Wimbledon Against Ronnie Moore although only a 2nd string Dickie outgated Moore re-passed him before Moore overtook for a 2nd time to win.

Details taken from Arnie Gibbons excellent book "Tears and Glory"

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Blimey, that was a shock - Hans' first defence at the start of 1986. What happened? Did Hans' bike fail (no disrepect meant to Carl, who was about to enjoy his best ever season)?

 

Tony, it was completely fair and square. Carl Blackbird actually beat Hans THREE times that night - in Heat 12 of the league match, in the ill-concevied Gold Sash (remember that) and the Golden Helmet. Hans just had no answer.

 

Probably the only time that someone beat Hans Nielsen three times in the same meeting anywhere in 1986.

 

My main memory of the Golden Helmet comes from later in the same season. Hans had missed a home meeting against Ipswich, thus allowing Marvyn Cox to take the Golden Helmet off Jeremy Doncaster. Cocker defended it a few times (including beating Chris Morton from behind at Belle Vue), and then Cradley came to Oxford.

 

Erik Gundersen, the defending World Champion, duly topped scored for the Heathens and thus became the challenger.

 

Cocker lost the toss for gate positions and started off the outside, and when he missed the gate, it looked all over. But Cocker wasn’t beaten, climbed all over the back of Erik, before driving under Erik on the third lap and then holding onto a famous victory. I was in the crowd on the fourth bend, going barmy along with the rest of the Oxford faithful!

 

Just before the race, my uncle's registration was called out and he was asked to immediately move his car. He did move it - but only after the race!

 

Cocker held onto the Golden Helmet longer than anyone else in 1986, not bad for a third heat leader. Ironically he also lost the helmet to Carl Blackbird!

 

All the best

Rob

 

P.S. Now back to transcribing my article for the next issue of Backtrack.

Edited by lucifer sam

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My biggest Golden Helmet memory is also of Tommy Jansson. It was him and Martin Ashby at Swindon. I can't remember the races, but I remember Tommy sat in the pits during the meeting waiting to take part in the second half and I leaned through the gap at the back and got his autograph. He died soon after that. I always get the same image in my head of him sat there when I think about it.

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Thanks to all for contributing so many great memories, and please keep 'em coming as we would like to include the best of them as part of our feature.

 

From some of the above responses, it's clear that the one-off Helmet decider had distinct pro's and con's. The coin toss was often all-important - not only in determining gate positions, but also which rider from a team would actually go forward to make the challenge at the end of the night after two (or more) members of the same team finished with the same points tally.

 

But then again, it threw up some unlikely winners who possibly wouldn't otherwise have had their moment of glory.(Love the tale about Dickie May).

 

It was indicative of how seriously most riders took the Helmet that when the format changed to the best of three monthly challenge in 1974, they were prepared to travel all over England for just two races, plus one guaranteed second half ride (if they were prepared to hang around in the pits long enough for the 13-heat match to be completed).

 

If you need to jog your memory, we suggest a peep at the following website, where you will find a comprehensive list of results:

 

http://speedwaychampions.com/BritishMatchRaceChmpshp.aspx

Edited by tmc

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Like so many here my memories as a Dons fan are of Tommy Jansson winning against Martin Ashby who was a real favourite of mina at the time.He also went on to help us out so often he was almost a Dons rider after Tommy lost his life.Great riders both.The races against Jessup to defend the helmet as well.

 

Then my only other real memory was my only visit to Cradley Heath.I went especially for the races between Erik + Hans,as it was the golden helmet and then Cradley v Oxford.Erik won in the helmet match races and then went on to have a terrible meeting for him.Only got about 6 points and i think Oxford might have won.Was worth the money travelling up from London though

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Saw the Golden Helmet match race in my first ever meeting. Was in August 1981 Halifax v Hull with a the Golden Helmet between Kenny Carter and Gordon Kennet, KC won 2-0 and I think that was the first time he held it and then saw him beat quite a few riders over the next few seasons to retain or regain it, camn only ever remember seeing KC loose it once at the Shay and that was against Michael Lee in 1983 a feww weeks before the Norden World Final, Mike the Bike was flying that night

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Wasn't the Peter Collins v Anders Michanek 'best race for many' at Hyde Road the Golden Helmet??

 

 

And yes, I remember KC doing Penhall for the helmet, I also remember Mike Lee SMASHING the track record at The Shay to strip Kenny of it as well on a faultless night in 83.

 

 

It had good prestige. I even remember Ian Cartwright having a tilt at the Helmet, when Dave Jessup held it. Jessup won it of course, he was flying.

 

 

A great era.

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Wasn't the Peter Collins v Anders Michanek 'best race for many' at Hyde Road the Golden Helmet??

 

 

Think that was the 1973 K.O. Cup Final race-off decider........

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